“Ashwadh?”called out Anshula to her brother.
“Yes, Anshu”, Ashwadh came out of his room to sit beside his twin sister.
“I’ve looked up just as you told me to.  There is a two bedroom flat in the Orange blooms. Mom and I went, it’s well furnished and it’s just 3 stops away from your office. The rent is reasonable too,” she said.
“Have you checked everything? Water, power, the people around?”
“Of course we did. You can trust mom not to leave anything out”, she said.
“If you and mom like it, that’s enough”, he said. “It’s only for a year that I’m going , and that too, a few kilo metres away. I’ll manage somehow, and after that I’ll come back home. Confirm it, Anshu. And, thank you so much”, he smiled, patting his sister on her head. “What about the owner?”
“The owner? He’s a man called James something, I’m not sure. He’s going abroad, and he’s giving away the house for rent”, she replied.
“What?! Why didn’t you tell me this before? Anshu? Seriously? A Christian? Their houses smell, Anshu! You know that! No way! ”  her brother cried out angrily.
“Ashwadh, please! Be reasonable! He’s not an alien! It’s a house for God’s sake. Even mom didn’t have a problem!”
“It’s not about the house, I do NOT want to have to do anything with people of other religions. I hate that. You know that, Anshu. No,sorry. Cancel that house. Either you look for another or I’ll look for one myself”,  he remarked angrily, getting up and going back to his room.
Anshula looked at her retreating brother and sighed heavily. When would he change, she thought. It had always been like this,she reflected sadly. She loved him with all her heart, but she felt he had to change.
After a couple of minutes, she sighed again and went into her brother’s room .
“If you’ve come to argue with me again, I’m going to slam the door in your face, Anshu.  I have no time to listen to your rants. I have my opinions and you have yours. That doesn’t mean I am a bad person. I have loads of work and have no time to….”her brother rattled on curtly.
“Will you even listen to me?” she smacked her brother lightly on his head. “I came to tell you that I’ll look for another house, okay? Don’t disturb yourself with this. You can concentrate on your project. ”
“Oh. Right”, he said. “Sorry! And thank you, Anshu”, he grinned sheepishly.
“Idiot”, she smiled, and walked away.
After Anshula’s tireless searching for a house became fruitful, Ashwadh finally moved into another apartment in the Spring Meadows. And, he liked it there. The house was comfortable, the neighbors helpful, and he had time for himself too.
*** 5 months later ***
“Hey, Ashwadh!” cried his sister, at the other end of the phone. “It’s been two weeks since you called!  Have you been that busy?”
“Yes, Anshu.  Work is a little hectic, but I am fine”,  he smiled at his sister’s voice.
“Are you outside?  I can hear the traffic. Where are you going at this time?” she asked.
“To a wedding.  It’s my neighbor’s sister’s daughter’s wedding and I promised I’d go.  She’s a very helpful lady, Anshu. Very kind. That’s the only reason I’m going.”
“That’s nice. Have fun, Ashwadh.”
“Hahaha, I don’t know anyone there! I’ll probably be bored stiff. ”
How wrong he was.
He recognized her as the woman he saw everyday at the bus stop. He knew she lived in the same apartment. He had never properly observed her, but he realized that he had never really noticed how beautiful she was.
She had beautiful, expressive eyes, and a pleasant, open smile. Slim, slender and tall, her pale face was accentuated by the huge, red bindhi on her forehead. Her bearing, though simple, spoke volumes. She had an elegant, feminine grace that instantly drew him to her.
“What a woman!”he thought to himself. He had to talk to her.
He approached her cautiously. “Hello”, he said. She turned to him tentatively, but her face relaxed into a smile, as she recognized him as one of the people in the apartment. “Hi”, she said, taking in Ashwadh’s charming personality.
“I’m Ashwadh”, he introduced himself.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Sitara”, she replied, smiling.”Sitara Madhuri.”
“I recognised you and I thought I would come and talk. I know no one here”, he said,ruefully.
“Me too! I was getting bored, sitting all alone. I’ve moved in very recently”,she said.
“Why don’t we sit together?”he asked, praying to the gods for a positive answer.
She considered him for a moment, but gave in immediately. “I’d love to”, she said and went to sit with him.
For the next three hours, Ashwadh had one of the best times he ever had. Sitara was one of the most natural women he had ever seen. Her delicate sense of humour, respect for other beings , and her sensibility electrified him. He felt irrevocably and undeniably attracted to her. He was in love and he knew it. But what he did not know, was that the admiration was mutual.
When they parted, it was with a promise that they parted. A hope, an expectation that they would meet again, as a warmth stirred in their still hearts.
They did meet again. And again. With every passing day, Ashwadh could feel himself falling and falling for her. She had bewitched him completely. He knew he needed her in his life. Barely within a fortnight of knowing her,he knew one thing. He was sure about this woman.
“Ashwadh? Are you okay?” asked Anshula, glancing at her bed time clock. It was 1 o’clock in the night.
“I’m fine, I’m fine. I just felt like talking” he said.
“This had better be important”, she said grimly.
“It is . It is to me, at least. I’m in love, Anshu.”
“What? How did this happen? Ashwadh? How many things have you been hiding? Will you call me to your marriage at least?”she cried, indignantly.
“Will you shut up,idiot? You’ll wake mom up! Listen and I’ll tell you everything”, he said and proceeded to tell his sister everything, about how he met Sitara, how beautiful she was, and how he fell for her. As she listened, her frowning face melted into a smile. She didn’t know her brother had such a romantic side to him.
“Ohhh Ashwadh…I didn’t know you were that serious! I’m happy for you..are you completely sure?”
“Yes, I am, Anshu. Life seems pointless without her, you know? I need her”, he said.
Anshula smiled at her brother’s fervent earnestness.
“I want you to meet her. You can be great friends , Anshu .She reminds me a little of you. Tell me what you think about her. Not that it matters,  of course”, he teased.
“Shut up, idiot. Of course I will meet her. What about this weekend? Shall I come over?”
“Yup, that’s done then. Did I disturb your sleep? Go, sleep. Good night, Anshu.”
“Good night, Ashwadh. Take care.”
Anshula loved Sitara. She was such a modest, approachable and friendly person, that it was impossible not to like her. And yes, she was very beautiful.
Her heart welled up with happiness as she saw Ashwadh and Sitara together. They were so much in love. She could feel it in the air. They complemented each other so well,she thought. There was so much passion in each other’s eyes as they looked at each other. An emotional maturity existed, that was devoid of any selfishness. She was very, very happy for her brother.
“I’ll leave, Ashwadh. It’s getting late. Mom will be waiting at home”, Anshula said, getting up.
“Ok then, Anshu. Thanks for coming. It means a lot”, he said, hugging his sister.
“And thanks to you”, Anshula said, turning to Sitara. “I had a lovely time. I enjoyed every minute”, she said sincerely.
“And I did too, Anshula”, Sitara said warmly. “Thank you for a lovely evening”, she added.
“Why don’t you give me your number? We could stay in touch, that way.”
“Sure”,she replied and gave her number.
“Y–up, done”,Anshula jotted down her number in her phone. “And your name?”
“Sitara”, she said smiling, shaking her head and rolling her eyes in mock disappointment.
“No no!”Anshula laughed.” Your full name! Of course you’re Sitara! But I have another friend whose name is Sitara too.”
“Oh, right. Sitara. Sitara Madhuri Ahmed” she said.
“I love bindhis” she added softly.

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